St. Petersburg, Florida is known as the Sunshine City for its spectacular weather and warm-hearted citizens. This amazing city is also known for its charm of both the folks who live here and the appealing architecture that has lasted for generation after generation. As high-rise condos and new construction is sweeping the entire state, the attractive historic buildings in the area are being saved thanks to St. Petersburg Preservation.
“It [St. Petersburg Preservation] is preserving the character that has especially attracted so many people to St. Pete, especially here in downtown.” Executive Director Allison Stribling (7th generation Florida girl) explained as she spoke of her passion for the non-profit in Downtown St. Pete. Founded in 1977, the organization is determined to continue to raise awareness for the amazing history the city holds.
For example, did you know that ex-mayor of St. Petersburg, Abe Pheil, won the bid to take the first commercial flight from St. Pete to Tampa in 1914? He was awarded the honor with his $400 bid. Delving a tad bit further into this glorious chunk of history, Pheil was also a hotel developer in the 1920s and created the Pheil Hotel in the heart of Downtown St. Pete at 4th Street and Central Avenue. Although the beautiful building has been covered up with metallic mesh since the 1960s, the history still lies underneath. Currently there is a request pending for demolition of this and an adjacent building. St. Petersburg Preservation believes that this is a perfect example of the importance of reusing and redeveloping an existing building rather than losing a key piece of the good ol’ days.
“We are trying to preserve neat buildings,” Peter Belmont, Vice President of St. Petersburg Preservation explained. “When we get the call they don’t look so neat anymore and it’s hard for people to imagine what it could become.” However, take The Vinoy for instance – the stunning hotel from the 20s was scheduled for demolition in the 1980s, because some said it was far too expensive to renovate after the doors shut in 1974. With astounding citizen support partially organized by St. Petersburg Preservation, The Vinoy was saved! (Peter has been with the organization since the beginning and has called St. Pete home since the early 70s).
The Courtyard by Marriott in Downtown St. Pete, formerly known as the Pennsylvania Hotel, is also rich in history (Babe Ruth even stayed there!) and a great place to stay if you are in town for a vacation or looking for a place to relax for a stay-cation.
Undeniably, the city has alluring character and the locals are proud to call it home, but sometimes it is a bit of a struggle to keep that character when out-of-town developers try to invade. That is exactly where St. Petersburg Preservation comes in. Through advocacy and their education component, they provide people with a greater understanding and appreciation of what the city already has. The organization does this with fun events such as walking tours, which are filled with exciting history lessons and gorgeous views. These tours are held every Saturday October thru April and they are also available for private group tours.
St. Petersburg Preservation is here to Keep St. Pete Special; so the real question is how can you get involved with the organization to help protect the architectural history of the city? Simply become more active and participate in the programs by attending their events such as the Walking Tours, Porch Parties and Movies in the Park. Become a member, volunteer or by show your support with a donation – anyone can help raise awareness!
Downtown St. Pete is constantly evolving and so is DowntownStPete.com. We are happy to continue to share only the BEST PLACES to go, 5 Star EVENTS to attend, and unique PERSONALITIES to meet in DTSP. Create a PROFILE to interact with other members and post a photoonto DOWNTOWN NOW of your favorite historic landmark or favorite building in the area that has an interesting story. We can’t wait to hear from you!